Earlier this year I went on the old 7-day Cabbage Soup Diet (or cleanse, whatever you want to call it), for which I got a lot of strange looks. It’s not as much a fad diet, because it’s not really popular these days, but I liked that it was short and I could eat a lot.
But sometimes I just want to eat healthier – that’s really my primary goal when it comes to changing the way I eat. Sure, losing a few pounds is nice, but that’s what the gym is for. And eating better tends to start a chain reaction: eat better, feel better, stay healthier, keep active…
For this reason, and given my recent trip to the Mediterranean where I ate so many deliciously healthy meals, I have a new diet love: The Mediterranean Diet. I guess I should call it a “diet” since there is no one set of rules and guidelines. As The American Heart Association points out, there are 16 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Yet I tend to think of Mediterranean food as mostly Greek. Maybe it’s because the Greeks are known to be the healthiest (and most long-living) people in the world. But I guess we can think of it as a diet in the cultural sense of the word, rather than the “trying-to-lose-weight” definition. Or maybe I’ll just call it an “eating style”. Has that term been coined yet? No? Then I claim it.
But the AHA also points out these characteristics of eating like a Mediterranean:
- high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
- olive oil is an important monounsaturated fat source
- dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, and little red meat is eaten
- eggs are consumed zero to four times a week
- wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts
Ok, we all know that last bullet is why I like this diet so much. Red wine is good for your heart (yeah, yeah… in moderation) so it’s no surprise that the AHA is on board. And I’m on board too, because it’s good for my brain, too, after a long day.
So I’ve been digging and I’ve found lots of awesome recipes that look both delicious and healthy. What a combo! Fox News has a great compilation of 22 Recipes for improving your health. I also found an article on EatingWell that features lots of tapas-like dishes. So I tried out a few and made a nice big Mediterranean Salad, with leftovers for a healthy packed lunch. And every recipe was super-easy for a quick, flavorful, good-for-you weeknight meal.
I tried the Baked Parmesan Tomatoes which included only a few ingredients, all of which I already had in my kitchen.
Recipe courtesy of EatingWell.com
- 4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450° F.
- Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
I also threw together Balsamic & Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower which has so many flavors that I love! Plus I got to experiment with a new spice – marjoram.
Recipe also courtesy of EatingWell.com
- 8 cups 1-inch-thick slices cauliflower florets, (about 1 large head)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Toss cauliflower, oil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until starting to soften and brown on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Toss the cauliflower with vinegar and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven and roast until the cheese is melted and any moisture has evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes more.
And the piece de resistance which I continually make as both appetizer and meal – classic Mediterranean Salad. Here’s my own recipe, homemade dressing included!
- 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup Feta cheese
- 1 tsp. fresh Oregano
- 1 Tb. honey
- 1 Tb. Dijon
- 5 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
- 5 Tb. red wine vinegar
Add all salad ingredients to bowl. Add dressing and toss well.
Dressing: Mix honey, Dijon, oregano in glass measuring cup/bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar and mix well.